Tory get out of jail free card for criminals

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North West Labour MEP Julie Ward today warned any u-turn on opting back into the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) will hamper the fight against crime by making it harder to bring criminals to book.

The European Arrest Warrant has been a major success, reducing extradition times to an average of 48 hours or less since 2004 when it came into force. Prior to this, it took months or even years or never happened at all. Hundreds of serious criminals and some terrorists have been prosecuted as a direct result of the EAW, including London tube bomber Hussain Osman.

Julie Ward MEP said:

"The European Arrest Warrant is one of the best examples of European co-operation. It means that criminals who try to evade justice by fleeing Britain can be brought back to face trial in a matter of days instead of months, years or not at all.

"It is baffling that the Tories in their bid to out-UKIP UKIP want to give criminals a get out of jail free card. If David Cameron backs his Eurosceptic MPs on this he is once again demonstrating that he is putting narrow party interests before those of the country."

Claude Moraes MEP, Chair of the European Parliaments Civil Liberties, Justice & Home Affairs committee, said:

"This ideological obsession of the Tory Party with Europe ignores the basic, unavoidable facts that the UK has enjoyed hugely successful cross-border cooperation which has seen credible results to UK citizens. This display of political opportunism has the potential of causing serious damage to UK security and safety.

"As the single market and free movement has become a reality, so too has the increase in cross-border crimes. Drug trafficking, human trafficking, illegal immigration and terrorism are all crimes that now operate beyond national boundaries.

"It is exactly these types of cross-border issues EU justice and home affairs policy aims to prevent. Even in the past two years we have seen the UK sign up to EU legislation on protecting victims of crime, combating human trafficking and protecting citizens’ rights to data protection.

"In addition to this, and even more worrying, a decision to trigger the opt-out could pose a threat to national security as the UK would no longer be able to use agencies, shared databases, funding and instruments in law enforcement which the UK police force depend on so regularly to protect citizens."